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La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman by Alfredo Mirande and Evangelina Enriquez This paper analyzes the work titled La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman by Alfredo Mirande and Evangelina Enriquez as one of the most prominent books that has even been written on the topic of Latino women, their characteristics, and personal traits. Chicanas as a topic for research have been elusive beings for a number of years. To correct the error of omission, attempts have been made to bring Chicanas back into history. A pattern has thus emerged of providing examples of outstanding Mexican women or Chicanas who were then included in the historical record (Mirande and Enriquez, 1979). As with its counterpart--the ‘Great Man’ theory of history--this approach views history as an unfolding story of great individuals who shape and influence the course of history. In La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman authors challenge the stereotypes of Chicanas as passive, quiet, and submissive. This work represents both the strength and the weakness of such a framework. On the one hand, a focus of individual Chicanas, both contemporary (from Mexican or Chicano history), dispels damaging and distorting images of Chicanas.

 

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Such a focus also provides a window into history. An examination of these women in Chicano history represents a starting point for revising a history that has largely ignored women. In addition, a perspective that documents the struggles and resistance activities of individual Chicanas provides Chicana students with positive role models through the use of such biographical histories. Inclusion of such individuals is, therefore, a major contribution to the integration of women into Chicano studies. La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman approach, nevertheless, falls into two traps. Such accounts often remain at a basically descriptive level, lacking a theoretical framework with which to analyze the specific experiences of such women. More importantly, however, this approach fails to analyze the lives of the majority of Mexican women or Chicanas who were the contemporaries of such individuals. The social conditions that affected the masses of Chicanas as such receive very little attention, if any. By focusing on Chicana femaleness, the La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman perspective begins to formulate a response to the question of gender inequality.

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A large number of studies examining the conditions and experiences affecting Chicanas as women have concentrated primarily on their role within the family. A substantial body of literature on the Chicano family in general has emerged over the past fifteen years. Less attention, however, has been given to the relation between women's domesticity and gender inequality than to the role of Chicanas as the nurturers of family members within a hostile Anglo society. Challenging the stereotypical view of Chicanas as passive and compliant, La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman portrays Chicanas as active resisters to the encroachments of Anglo society. Chicanas, as wives and mothers, protect and support family members by providing "warmth, support and affection" (Mirande and Enriquez 116). The literature on the Chicano family such as La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman has produced evidence, both historical and contemporary, to challenge the distorted social science view of the Chicano family and the role of Chicanas within it (Mirande and Enriques 34).

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Nevertheless, some parts of this book on the Chicano family are characterized by a fundamental weakness. Much of this research lacks a critical and systematic analysis of male / female relationships within the family. The issue regarding the source of female oppression and inequality within the context of the Chicano family has not been fully examined. This constitutes a major gap in this work. One has to note that women not only maintained and reproduced male workers through their roles as housewives and mothers, but some also had to labor outside the home to supplement family income and in so doing experience a double day. La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman has attempted to go beyond a descriptive study of Chicanas within the Chicano family. It, in a way, focused on the sources of gender inequality within the family. Such works as La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman highlight the dynamics and patterns of male/female relations as a source of gender inequality and oppression.

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New Chicana researchers as well as black women scholars have drawn on feminist scholarship on gender inequality to explain the societal position of women of color. It should be noted, however, that La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman has recognized some limitations inherent in white feminist models of inequality when applied to women of color. Critiques and revisions of the public versus domestic sphere model, for example, have developed within the scholarship produced by women of color. The La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman perspective goes beyond the cultural interpretation offered to explain the role of Chicanas within the family. The major focus is now on the patterns of male domination within the family. This approach is largely responsible for generating key questions not raised in either of the first two approaches used to integrate women into Chicano studies. The La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman approach tells the story of those Chicanas who served as examples of outstanding women.

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